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The Philosophy of the Kalam

The Philosophy of the Kalam

by Harry Austryn WolfsonHarry Austryn Wolfson


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Harry Wolfson was renowned throughout the world for the depth, scope, and wisdom of his monumental volumes on the structure and growth of philosophic systems from Plato to Spinoza. It was not only his extraordinary erudition that commanded respect, his awesome mastery of all the primary sources, Greek, Christian, Judaic, and Muslim; it was also his penetrating insight and his original and groundbreaking interpretations.

In this long-awaited volume, on which he worked for twenty years, Wolfson describes the body of doctrine known as the Kalam. Kalam, an Arabic term meaning "speech" and hence "discussion," was applied to early attempts in Islam to adduce philosophic proofs for religious beliefs. It later came to designate a system of religious philosophy which reached its highest point in the eleventh century; the masters of Kalam, known as Mutakallimum, were in many respects the Muslim equivalent of the Christian Church Fathers. Wolfson studies the Kalam systematically, unfolding its philosophic origins and implications and observing its repercussions in other religions. He scrutinizes the texts of Muslim writers for their treatment of such crucial problems as the attributes of God, the Creation, causality, predestination and free will. In the process he shows how the teachings of the Koran were constantly interwoven with ideas from Greek and Oriental philosophies, Judaism, and Christianity as Islamic thought developed.

As lucidly written and intellectually stimulating as all the author's earlier books, this volume is a fitting capstone to a notable career.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674665804
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 01/01/1976
Series: Structure and Growth of Philosophic Systems from Plato to Spinoza, 4 Series
Pages: 810
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.75(h) x (d)

About the Author

Harry Austryn Wolfson was Nathan Littauer Professor of Hebrew Literature and Philosophy, Emeritus, Harvard University.

Table of Contents


I. The Term Kalam

II. The Kalam According to Shahrastānī and Ibn Haldūn

III. The Kalam According to Maimonides

IV. Influences

1. Christianity

2. Greek Philosophy

3. Iranian and Indian Religions

4. Judaism

V. Origin, Structure, Diversity

VI. Christian and Jewish Kalam

• Introductory Statement

1. Christian Kalam

2. Jewish Kalam


I. The Muslim Attributes and the Christian Trinity

II. Denial of the Reality of Attributes

III. Created Attributes

IV. Modes

I. Mu'ammar's ma'nā

2. Abū Hāshim's ahwāl

3. Opposition to Abū Hāshim

V. The Semantic Aspect of the Problem of Attributes


I. The Uncreated Koran

1. Origin of the Doctrine of the Uncreated Koran

2. The Unraised Problem Of Inlibration

• a. Ibn Kullāb and the Denial of Inlibration

• b. Ibn Hanbal and the Affirmation of Inlibration

• c. The Hanbalite Ash'arī

• d. The Kullabite Ash'arī and Ash'arites

• e. The Hanbalite Ibn Hazm

II. The Created Koran

1. The Denial of the Uncreated Koran and the Denial of Eternal Attributes

2. The Created Koran as a Pre-Existent Created Heavenly Koran

3. The Denial of a Pre-Existent Heavenly Koran

III. The Formal Creeds on Inlibration

1. The Wasiyyah

2. Nasafī And Taftāzānī

3. Fadālī

IV. The Terms Muhdath, Hadath, and Hādith as Applied to the Koran


I. Trinity and Incarnation in the Koran

II. Trinity and Incarnation in the Kalam

III. The Philosopher Kindī And Yahyā Ibn 'adī on the Trinity

IV. An Unknown Splinter Group of Nestorians

V. Muslim Attributes In Medieval Christianity


I. Creation Ex Nihilo

1. Historical Background

2. The Kalam Controversy Over the Nonexistent (al-ma'dūm) as a Controversy Over ex nihilo

II. Arguments For Creation

1. Argument From Finitudes and the Reconstruction of its Original Form in John Philoponus

2. Argument From the Analogy of Things in the World

3. Argument From the Aggregation and Segregation of Atoms

4. Argument From the Createdness of the Accidents of the Component Parts of the World

5. Argument From the Impossibility of an Infinite by Succession

6. Argument From Particularization

7. Argument From Preponderation

8. Argument From Immortal Souls

III. The Kalam Arguments For Creation in Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, and Bonaventura


I. Affirmation of Atomism

1. Origin of Atomism in the Kalam

2. An Unknown Pseudo-Democritean Fragment and the Unextendedness of Atoms in the Kalam

3. Greek Descriptions of Atoms as Reflected in the Atomism of the Kalam

II. The Denial of Atomism and the Theories of Latency (kumūn) and the Leap (al-ta frah)


I. The Denial of Causality

1. The Duration and Destruction of Things

2. The Theory Of Custom ('ādah) and its Formulation by Ghāzalī

3. Averroes' Criticism of the Denial of Causality and of the Theory of Custom

II. Affirmation Of Causality

III. Impossibilities

IV. Repercussions in Christianity

1. St. Thomas on the Kalam Denial of Causality

2. Nicolaus of Autrecourt and GhazālĪ's Argument Against Causality


I. The Predestinarians

II. The Libertarians

III. The Hātirāni in the Kalam and Ghazal as Inner Motive Powers of Human Actions

IV. Generated Effects (al-mutawalladāt)

V. The Antinomies of Free Will

1. Free Will and the Predestinarian Verses in the Koran

2. Free Will and the Appointed Term (ajal)

3. Free Will and Preordained Sustenance

4. Free Will and God's Foreknowledge

5. Free Will and God's Power: The Theory of Acquisition (kasb iktisāb)

• a. Pre-Ash'arite Acquisition

• b. Acquisition in Ash'arī, Bakillānī, and Juwaynī

• c. Acquisition in Ghazālī


1. Attributes

2. The Koran

3. Creation

4. Atomism

5. Causality

6. Predestination


Bibliographical Note


Index Of References

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